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Published:
2018-11-08 12:47:24 -0500
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Five Things an OTW Volunteer Said

Every month or so the OTW will be doing a Q&A with one of its volunteers about their experiences in the organization. The posts express each volunteer's personal views and do not necessarily reflect the views of the OTW or constitute OTW policy. Today's post is with Ariana, who volunteers a staffer in our Accessibility, Design, & Technology Committee and as the Senior Technical Staffer in our Open Doors Committee.

How does what you do as a volunteer fit into what the OTW does?

As a volunteer coder for both Accessibility, Design, & Technology Committee (AD&T) and Open Doors, I mainly help with the OTW's aim of preserving fan history. In my twenty-odd years of online fandom, I've seen many works and sites disappears and it's very satisfying to be able to do my bit to ensure that this happens less frequently in future.

What is a typical week like for you as a volunteer?

Because I have both children and a full-time job, I have to fit my OTW duties in around my "real" life. As a general rule, I will spend several hours at the weekend and at least one or two hours in the evening working on OTW projects, as well as attending the weekly meeting for AD&T and, when I can, the Open Doors one which is a bit late in my timezone.

Fortunately, as I'm a software developer in real life too, I can also sometimes sneak in code reviews, research, or a bit of coding at work without anyone thinking it odd -- as long as I remember not to actually open the Archive or any of the sites Open Doors is importing! Conveniently, we use a lot of the same tools at work too, including the messaging app used by the OTW, which means I'm able to keep in touch with other volunteers to ask or answer questions and keep track of any major projects we're working on.

Have you recently worked on any particularly interesting or challenging projects?

My main focus over the last couple of years has been to create a sustainable pipeline to import archives rescued by Open Doors into the Archive. This has involved adding a mass import API to the Archive and a generic website that Open Doors can use to feed external data into it. There are also a set of scripts that adapt the contents of the rescued archives to the format needed by the generic website. The main challenge now is how to process the variety of old archives with those scripts; since every site is different, importing each one is still a lot of work and we've recently recruited more technical volunteers to help with this. The aim is to make importing archives as painless as possible so we can provide a home to all the sites whose owners ask us to add them to the Archive.

What's the most fun thing to you about volunteering for the OTW?

Perhaps the most useful thing about volunteering for the OTW has been learning software engineering; when I started out as an AD&T coder six years ago, I only knew a bit of theory and some HTML, and now I'm a Principal Software Engineer for a big multinational company!

In a way that's been fun for me, too, because I love computing, but I think to be honest that the most fun aspect of volunteering has been meeting the people I volunteer with. Over the last few years, I've made a lot of friends, some of whom I even meet in real life on a regular basis! It's great to be able to share anything with a group of people who, though they are scattered across the globe, tend to share my fannish, geeky and open-minded views on things.

What fannish things do you like to do?

When I can squeeze a bit of free time, I love to write stories. Most are quite short, but every few years, I'll embark on something long and rambly: my current WIP is over 100,000 words and has been going for nearly two years now! I've always enjoyed making up stories in my head and imagining how the characters from some book or TV show might behave in a given situation. Thanks to the feedback of various betas over the years, I've improved a lot as a writer -- rather as I've improved as a coder!


Now that our volunteer’s said five things about what they do, it’s your turn to ask one more thing! Feel free to ask about their work in comments. Or if you'd like, you can check out earlier Five Things posts.

The Organization for Transformative Works is the non-profit parent organization of multiple projects including Archive of Our Own, Fanlore, Open Doors, Transformative Works and Cultures, and OTW Legal Advocacy. We are a fan run, entirely donor-supported organization staffed by volunteers. Find out more about us on our website.

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Published:
2018-10-07 11:30:29 -0400
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Five Things an OTW Volunteer Said

Every month or so the OTW will be doing a Q&A with one of its volunteers about their experiences in the organization. The posts express each volunteer's personal views and do not necessarily reflect the views of the OTW or constitute OTW policy. Today's post is with Lex deLeon, who volunteers as a Support staffer and tag wrangler, and was recently elected to the OTW's Board of Directors.

How does what you do as a volunteer fit into what the OTW does?

As a member of the Support and Tag Wrangling teams, I feel I provide two different aspects of user to volunteer interaction with the Archive. As a tag wrangler, I take loose ideas that people use to describe their stories in the Character, Relationship or Additional Tags fields on their works and make them synonymous with common tags that many people use for searching. There are far too many examples for this, but it is basically like taking fandom ideas and making them make sense to someone who isn't in fandom. The thought process can be the same at times! There can be a lot of research associated with this, especially when someone likes to use fanon specific nicknames. It is a largely invisible, but invaluable task.

As a member of the Support team, I reply to tickets that are sent in by users of the site. This may be as simple as "I can't log in", which is a common complaint to any site with login capability. Those of you out there who have suffered this, you are not alone! Or it could be more complex questions, such as "how do I post a new work". It is always important to me to respond with the utmost of professionalism and respect, as I was once one of those users who didn't know a slash (/) from an ampersand (&). Hint: the first means a romantic or sexual relationship, the second means friendship or platonic.

Overall, I feel my work in the OTW is something that allows me to contribute in a generally positive way to the larger fandom communities that are out there.

What is a typical week like for you as a volunteer?

Generally, any work as a volunteer starts the same way -- caffeine. I will openly admit to being a thorough and unashamed addict, whether it be coffee or energy drinks. Then I will typically peruse new tags that have come in and send them to the appropriate locations as needed. On Support days, I will begin by selecting a ticket which I am comfortable tackling given my level of energy or time -- if a ticket is one which I know will require an hour of research or time, I will not begin working on it when I have ten minutes free. Much of my work as a volunteer is essentially time and resource (read: my own energy levels) management.

My father taught me a crucial lesson as a child: the only normal day was yesterday. Being willing and able to accept this kind of variability has been a huge help to my work as a volunteer.

What made you decide to volunteer?

I had wanted to volunteer for a while but had never happened upon the application at the right time. One day, I came to the Archive to peruse new femslash and saw it -- a shining beacon of a new News post, heralding "Volunteers needed!" I applied and the rest, as they say, was history. The mission of the OTW at large aligns with what I believe we as a fannish culture at large should be striving for -- not just a space for us to post out stories and pictures and videos, but a place that actively strives to protect our rights to do so.

What's the most fun thing to you about volunteering for the OTW?

Of all of the things I have learned and experienced during my time volunteering, the most rewarding thing has been discovering that I am not alone. I am not the only one who sees this rare ship, I am not the only one who sees the need for this fight, and I am not the only one who thinks that Certain Female Characters Were Robbed! While this is something I have also received from my other friends who do not volunteer, it is not always easy to yell into the void of my own fannish tumblr. I wish to discuss these things, to work out my thoughts and find a cohesive narrative from the frequently broken and half baked ideas that we are presented with from canon. The friendships I have made, and the relationships I have forged are ones which I hope are ones which stay with me for a long time.

Other than that, I'd have to say learning about new fandoms. I have SO MANY NEW SHIPS.

What fannish things do you like to do?

I have been writing since roughly 1992, though almost all of my early work is gone. I have never stopped writing, though I have taken hiatuses over the years for personal reasons. I have spent countless hours perusing fan manipulations, fan mixes, fan vids -- but my heart remains with fanfic. Whether reading or writing, that is where my main focus has always been.

I've drifted between fandoms over the years -- oh, the fond memories I have of the long dead Popular mailing list! -- though I do have to admit all of my fandoms have one thing in common. It is a failing, perhaps, or a strength. All of my fandoms have invariably been femslash. It has become a running joke amongst my friends, though additionally an advertisement, that I will invariably know of or be in the fandom for a lot of fandoms that have femslash.

Of everything I do in fandom, remembering what has come before and continuing to work toward allowing others the space and freedom to explore their own fannish tendencies is the thing I am most proud of. It is akin to the classic quote frequently misattributed to Voltaire but which is from Evelyn Beatrice Hall: "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."


Now that our volunteer’s said five things about what they do, it’s your turn to ask one more thing! Feel free to ask about their work in comments. Or if you'd like, you can check out earlier Five Things posts.

The Organization for Transformative Works is the non-profit parent organization of multiple projects including Archive of Our Own, Fanlore, Open Doors, Transformative Works and Cultures, and OTW Legal Advocacy. We are a fan run, entirely donor-supported organization staffed by volunteers. Find out more about us on our website.

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Published:
2018-09-09 12:04:53 -0400
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Five Things an OTW Volunteer Said

Every month or so the OTW will be doing a Q&A with one of its volunteers about their experiences in the organization. The posts express each volunteer's personal views and do not necessarily reflect the views of the OTW or constitute OTW policy. Today's post is with Megan Diane, who volunteers as a staffer in our Volunteers & Recruiting Committee.

How does what you do as a volunteer fit into what the OTW does?

I am a volunteer for the OTW Volunteers & Recruiting Committee. The OTW is completely volunteer run, and those volunteers need training, access to tools, and support. I like to think of Volunteers & Recruiting as one of the backbone committees of the OTW; we help provide infrastructure for current volunteers, onboard new volunteers, and thank any volunteers who leave us.

I also volunteer for the AO3 Policy & Abuse team, which helps answer complaints received about content on the Archive. It’s definitely a unique experience being involved in both inward and outer facing committees for the OTW.

What is a typical week like for you as a volunteer?

Every week is different. When we recruit, I’m busy organizing applications, creating contacts, answering any queries, as well as managing the database and websites we use. Recruitment can be a really hectic time, and there have been times where I get upwards of 40 emails in a few hours! There are also a lot of small tasks that have to be done for any volunteer whether they be incoming, outgoing, or current. If we aren’t recruiting, I’m usually helping with larger projects like our yearly Still Willing To Serve surveys, implementation of new OTW-wide tools, or discussing volunteer or staff needs with other OTW committees.

What made you decide to volunteer?

I fell in love with the Archive first, and after doing a bit more research fell in love with the OTW itself. It’s a great organization for fandom that not only supports the Archive but rescues fic through Open Doors, lobbies governments through Legal, and supports academic work through Transformative Works and Cultures. I wanted to help make the organization as successful as possible, as well as maybe try to make a small mark on Fandom.

What's the most fun thing to you about volunteering for the OTW?

Definitely the community here. Not only do we get to be part of larger fandom, but the OTW has its own unique culture; everyone here is so passionate about our larger vision. I’ve picked up several new fandoms since I’ve volunteered, as well as made some really good online friends!

What fannish things do you like to do?

I enjoy reading and writing fanfiction, and have been teaching myself editing via Photoshop. I’ve been involved in a lot of different fandom oriented discords and discussion groups as well. I’ve been able to attend a few local conventions and liveshows from podcasts I follow...eventually I’d like to make it bigger conventions! I’ve recently started enjoying cosplay -- though mainly closet cosplays!


Now that our volunteer’s said five things about what they do, it’s your turn to ask one more thing! Feel free to ask about their work in comments. Or if you'd like, you can check out earlier Five Things posts.

The Organization for Transformative Works is the non-profit parent organization of multiple projects including Archive of Our Own, Fanlore, Open Doors, Transformative Works and Cultures, and OTW Legal Advocacy. We are a fan run, entirely donor-supported organization staffed by volunteers. Find out more about us on our website.

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Published:
2018-08-16 12:06:28 -0400
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Five Things an OTW Volunteer Said

Every month or so the OTW will be doing a Q&A with one of its volunteers about their experiences in the organization. The posts express each volunteer's personal views and do not necessarily reflect the views of the OTW or constitute OTW policy. Today's post is with Stephanie Godden, who volunteers as a staffer in our Open Doors Committee.

How does what you do as a volunteer fit into what the OTW does?

The mission of the Open Doors project is to collaborate with the moderators of offline and at-risk archives and help import their works to the AO3, in keeping with the OTW’s goal of preserving and providing access to fanworks. So my duties as an Open Doors staffer range from directly interacting with archivists, creators, and fans; to actively participating in imports; to making improvements to our procedures and documentation. One nice thing about being on Open Doors is that it’s a very small committee, so there’s a lot of opportunity for anyone interested to learn every piece of the import process and to take initiative with additional tasks internal to the committee.

Open Doors’ work fits into the OTW by requiring quite a lot of cross-committee collaboration. For instance, we work with Translation and Communications to publish import announcements in multiple languages and spread the word on social media. Systems helps us to transfer hosting and domains of imported archives to the OTW as well as to set up redirects from original URLs to their imported copies on AO3. AO3 Documentation writes the FAQs on our website, and these require Open Doors approval throughout the drafting process. We collaborate with Accessibility, Design, & Technology, who manage AO3, via our fabulous liaison who also serves as Open Doors’ technical staffer. We also work closely with Tag Wrangling, who “map” the tags used on original archives to their counterparts on AO3 and whose Special Project Volunteers assist with searching the AO3 for existing copies of works before we do imports, so that we don’t end up with duplicates.

I currently serve on four OTW committees, so I have my hands on a lot of different moving parts! My role as a Tag Wrangler allows me to build relationships between tags so that AO3 users receive more complete, accurate results when they filter works. As a Media Outreach staffer with the Communications Committee, I interact with the OTW community by providing fans with content about what’s happening within fandom and within the OTW, and I help increase the OTW’s visibility and strengthen its connections to the media. On the other hand, in my staff position on Volunteers & Recruiting, I get to strengthen the OTW’s infrastructure by keeping our personnel records up-to-date, coordinating recruitment drives, and participating in projects that enable our volunteers to do their work more easily.

What is a typical week like for you as a volunteer?

Another nice thing about volunteering with Open Doors is that it’s very self-directed: you can take on as many or as few archives, tickets, and other tasks as you have time for. Depending on how far along the archives I’ve claimed are in the import process, during a typical week, I might be corresponding with archivists in order to draft import agreements, notifying other committees of upcoming imports and import announcements, or pushing buttons to import works en masse to the AO3, just to name a few possibilities.

Besides working with archivists, my volunteering also might include helping creators claim their works on their AO3 accounts or researching offline archives and reaching out to their moderators at the request of fans. Most of our work is centered on importing archives and helping creators access their imported works, but we also try to make time for keeping our internal documentation of our procedures up-to-date and for responding to other committees, like when AO3 Documentation wants us to look over FAQ drafts.

What made you decide to volunteer?

I started actively reading fanfiction on AO3 in early 2016, but I didn’t really know what the OTW was until I saw the Spotlight on Legal Advocacy post that was linked in a banner over the site during the October 2016 fundraising drive. Impressed, I spent an evening browsing the OTW's website and reading up on the OTW’s structure and goals. I’ve been moderating fan-run forums since the early 2000s, including a six-year stint acting in various mod roles on a fanfiction-based community until it closed down just a few months before that time, so when I learned that the OTW was a volunteer-run organization, I was immediately interested in joining it as a volunteer.

Three months later, the OTW announced that several committees, including Open Doors, were recruiting new volunteers. The Open Doors Committee’s work in particular resonated with me, as I had previously been a member of several archives that had closed down or were in danger of doing so (one of which, Unknowable Room, has since actually been imported to the AO3 through the Open Doors project!). I applied, and now four committees later, here we are!

What's the most fun thing to you about volunteering for the OTW?

The people I get to volunteer with! I’ve formed some great friendships with my fellow volunteers on Open Doors as well as elsewhere on other OTW committees. Moreover, even though I’ve been in the OTW for about a year and a half now, there’s always so much to learn and still so much that I don’t know about how all the different pieces of the organization fit together. I have great respect for the chairs of my committees and the experienced volunteers I’m privileged to work beside and learn from.

What fannish things do you like to do?

Besides modding and volunteering, fanfiction has always been the part of fandom that I’m most active with. I go in and out of binge-reading phases, and I’ve been on a slow-but-consistent writing kick ever since I joined the Supernatural fandom, although my one true fandom will always be Harry Potter.

I love getting my hands on every interesting piece of writing I can find about my chosen characters or ships, so that I can see the connections between which creators were influential over other creators and the ways that tropes and headcanons spread within a fandom over time. As a writer, I also love filling in the gaps before and between canonical events, finding canon-compliant ways to explain plot holes and canon inconsistencies, and exploring interesting alternatives that arise from canon divergence—all while adding as much character development and angst as possible.


Now that our volunteer’s said five things about what they do, it’s your turn to ask one more thing! Feel free to ask about their work in comments. Or if you'd like, you can check out earlier Five Things posts.

The Organization for Transformative Works is the non-profit parent organization of multiple projects including Archive of Our Own, Fanlore, Open Doors, Transformative Works and Cultures, and OTW Legal Advocacy. We are a fan run, entirely donor-supported organization staffed by volunteers. Find out more about us on our website.

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Published:
2018-07-16 11:13:34 -0400
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Five Things an OTW Volunteer Said

Every month or so the OTW will be doing a Q&A with one of its volunteers about their experiences in the organization. The posts express each volunteer's personal views and do not necessarily reflect the views of the OTW or constitute OTW policy. Today's post is with James Kruk, who volunteers as an AO3 Support Staffer.

How does what you do as a volunteer fit into what the OTW does?

I volunteer with the AO3 Support Committee, which has the responsibility of answering any questions about how to use the site. Really, it’s about making AO3 as accessible to as many as people as possible, and helping them get the most out of the Archive.

What is a typical week like for you as a volunteer?

AO3 Support has a fairly steady rhythm day-to-day. When people send in a request for technical support and feedback, it generates a support ticket, where it will be claimed or assigned to a Support volunteer. From there, we figure out what the response should be, or whether it needs to be passed along to another group, such as the AO3 Abuse Team (who deal with questions related to the Terms of Service), or to our translation team. Sometimes we get inundated with tickets (such as whenever the Archive goes offline for a few minutes), or when major events like Yuletide come along. And while it’s never entirely quiet, some weeks are smoother than others.

Some tickets can be answered in a manner of minutes, but many require some research, testing, and consulting with other volunteers. The questions users come to us with really can be about anything, so every week usually involves tinkering with something new. One week it’s figuring out if AO3 is compatible with the Tor Browser, the next, it’s figuring out how Google Chrome renders combining diacritics.

What made you decide to volunteer?

Way before I applied to volunteer, I’d been preaching the benefits of AO3 to everyone in my writing circles, trying to convey to them just how awesome of a platform it was. I found I really enjoyed showing off all the neat things you could do with the site, and I loved to tout its policy of maximum inclusiveness.

Eventually, I realized that my enthusiasm could maybe be made to actually help the Archive itself. With AO3 Support, I’ve found I’ve been able to directly improve people’s experiences of using the Archive, helping them enjoy it the same way I do. And that has been incredibly rewarding.

What’s the most fun thing to you about volunteering for the OTW?

Helping authors publish their fics the way they want them to appear. Sometimes that involves showing writers how to embed images in a work, how to right-align text, how to format line breaks or add in a hyperlink. You can do a ton of cool things with HTML to get your story to look just how you imagine, and helping authors with the finishing touches is extremely rewarding.

What fannish things do you like to do?

I write fanfiction as regularly as I’m able to. I remember typing up Star Wars adventures on my computer when I was maybe ten years old, and I don’t believe that the bug ever really left me. I began publishing in earnest around 2013, and soon made AO3 my home for all my works. I used to stick primarily in one or two fandoms and wrote mostly in the same genre, but I’ve grown much more comfortable experimenting over the years, both in terms of style and subject. I crossed the half-million word mark not too long ago, and have no plans to stop now!


Now that our volunteer’s said five things about what they do, it’s your turn to ask one more thing! Feel free to ask about their work in comments. Or if you'd like, you can check out earlier Five Things posts.

The Organization for Transformative Works is the non-profit parent organization of multiple projects including Archive of Our Own, Fanlore, Open Doors, Transformative Works and Cultures, and OTW Legal Advocacy. We are a fan run, entirely donor-supported organization staffed by volunteers. Find out more about us on our website.

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Published:
2018-06-17 11:15:45 -0400
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Five Things an OTW Volunteer Said

Every month or so the OTW will be doing a Q&A with one of its volunteers about their experiences in the organization. The posts express each volunteer's personal views and do not necessarily reflect the views of the OTW or constitute OTW policy. Today's post is with Adi M., who volunteers as a translator.

How does what you do as a volunteer fit into what the OTW does?

Translation helps make the OTW's content accessible to as many people as possible, which is a fundamental part of the organization's vision. I know a lot of people in my country shy away from any English content, whether because they don't feel comfortable reading in English or because they simply don't understand it enough. Knowing my translations help bring people in my country closer to fandom is one of the best parts of the role.

What is a typical week like for you as a volunteer?

My team is still fairly new, so there's a lot of content to translate and many terms and protocols to discuss, so there's always work to do! I get my task from Translation staff, usually with a deadline of one week, and as soon as I finish a task there's another one waiting.

I also note down any new term that needs to be discussed, or any question I have for the rest of my team, and when the list gets long enough I contact my team to set a meeting to figure out everything. Some terms can be frustrating, but that's all part of the fun!

What made you decide to volunteer?

I have been in fandom for 7 years now, and have always loved to translate everything I could get my hands on. Joining the OTW as a translator brought two of my favorite things in the world together.

You volunteered this year to be a chat room moderator for International Fanworks Day. What was that like?

It was a great experience for me. I was hesitant to volunteer for it in the beginning, but as the day drew closer I got more excited, and in the end, I am very happy I did it. I had the chance to meet new people I don't share a fandom with, and it was amazing how we still managed to bond over fannish joys and ideas even without liking the same things. When we need volunteers for next year, I'll be signing up!

What fannish things do you like to do?

I (try to) write fics, and I can't manage without reading at least one fic a day. I also love translating fics from English to Hebrew, both to make them more accessible for Hebrew-speaking fans and to practice my translation skills.


Now that our volunteer’s said five things about what they do, it’s your turn to ask one more thing! Feel free to ask about their work in comments. Or if you'd like, you can check out earlier Five Things posts.

The Organization for Transformative Works is the non-profit parent organization of multiple projects including Archive of Our Own, Fanlore, Open Doors, Transformative Works and Cultures, and OTW Legal Advocacy. We are a fan run, entirely donor-supported organization staffed by volunteers. Find out more about us on our website.

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Published:
2018-05-13 11:13:36 -0400
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Five Things an OTW Volunteer Said

Every month or so the OTW will be doing a Q&A with one of its volunteers about their experiences in the organization. The posts express each volunteer's personal views and do not necessarily reflect the views of the OTW or constitute OTW policy. Today's post is with Claire Baker, who volunteers as a member of the OTW Board.

How does what you do as a volunteer fit into what the OTW does?

The OTW's current Board members tend to wear many hats, and I am no exception. I co-chair the AO3 Documentation Committee (call us Docs!), wrangle tags in a handful of fandoms, do layout editing for Transformative Works and Cultures (TWC), and also serve on our Board of Directors.

Docs and Tag Wrangling are both AO3 committees: Docs writes FAQs, tutorials, and other user-facing help documentation, and Tag Wrangling sorts the tags users put on their works so that all the works about the same topic (fandom, character, pairing, etc) can be easily found. With TWC, I'm on the production team: my job is to take articles that have been written and copyedited, and add html formatting.

The Board of Directors oversees everything, though this oversight works best when we have direct communication with those who will be affected by our work. As such, we end up meeting either synchronously or asynchronously with chairs and committee members on a regular basis. We're aiming to build strong connections between us and each part of the OTW. And if we're not, I hope the committees can lead us to understand how we better can do our job!

What is a typical week like for you as a volunteer?

Like many people say in these Five Things posts, there's no such thing as a typical week within the OTW. However, I do have a schedule that I like to follow when I can.

I often try to start my OTW day with some tag wrangling. This may involve sorting through new tags, spreadsheeting older ones, or double-checking that canonical tags for my fandoms are all in order.

After that, I'll do some work for Docs. As a chair, this usually means looking at AO3 FAQs or tutorials that have recently been drafted, or documents that have completed our editing cycle and are almost ready for upload. Ideally, I'd look at one or more of these a day, but generally it's a little less than that. We chairs rotate between regular administrative tasks, so I may also send out our weekly check-in or a reminder to our sister committees that works are open for external betaing. Chairs attempt to meet weekly and talk asynchronously around that, so in a typical week I've been in contact with both of my co-chairs, and we've likely discussed or done work on a bigger administrative task as well.

If TWC has a new issue coming up, I'll spend a couple of days applying html to articles in order to get them publication ready, but that's not necessarily in a typical week; my job is only needed a couple of times per year.

And then there's my Board work. The most regular part here is voting. As soon as a request comes in, we will look into the issue, discuss it as needed, and vote. Voting happens asynchronously, and we are usually able to respond within 48 hours. Meetings are very much of a Board reality, and so chances are that I've scheduled or am scheduling one during any given week. (And on the weeks when Board does not meet, I will likely have a meeting scheduled with one of my other committees.) Outside of that, I try to put in an hour on Board documentation somewhere in my day —- either looking over existing pages, or drafting missing documentation. I've still got a lot to learn, but I'll keep on studying, asking questions, and working with others to build a deeper understanding for myself, and hopefully a better OTW for everyone.

Board members hold the only elected positions in the OTW. What made you decide to run?

The short answer is that I'm a nerd who loves the OTW and wants to see it become the best it can be. The long answer's a little more complicated, if no less heartfelt.

I fell in love with the concept of the OTW the moment that I was introduced to it in 2012. I fell in love with the people when I started volunteering in 2014. I was happy to do various tasks and to lend an opinion when needed, and I built a reputation of being a good person with strong leadership skills somewhere along the line. Meanwhile, I was witnessing transition: Docs went from a workgroup to a committee, the OTW adopted a new internal communication platform, and the Board itself went through a changing of the guard. Through all of that, I learned how great (and complicated) the OTW could be, and how much I valued it as a place of work.

By 2017, I was the third-longest serving member in Docs, and had gained a breadth of experience through mentoring new staff, taking on new roles within the OTW, and generally being an active participant in our volunteer community. When Elections and the Board started running opportunities to learn more about candidacy, I found myself participating there too.

In all honesty, I originally expected to wait one more year to have that much more knowledge under my belt, and so I could run alongside a friend who didn't quite qualify for candidacy. However, there was a need for more candidates for a fair, contested election, and I knew I had the time and skill set needed to serve the OTW well, so I put my name up for consideration.

Now, I wouldn't take back that decision for anything. I work alongside people I think of as great role models, and learn more from them every time we talk. I've gained a lot of knowledge about the OTW as a whole as well, and really do enjoy both the joys and challenges that come with helping the entire organization move forward smoothly. My hope now is that I can help foster the next generation of people to join our ranks, whether as new volunteers or new board members, and make the OTW an even better place for the fan community at large.

What are things you think fans probably do and don't understand about the OTW Board?

When I was new to the OTW, there was a lot of wariness about Board, and a pretty strong Them vs. Us mentality. We're working on breaking this down, but it takes a lot of time and effort to build, earn, and maintain trust.

The Board exists to make sure that we're all on the same page, and that we're doing what we need to still be around for years to come. If there's something coming up that we need to be prepared for, like GDPR, we'll make sure that the necessary conversations are happening. If AO3 needs more servers, we're here to make sure that those needs are acknowledged and met. Otherwise, we're happy to talk about our favourite characters and ships and take part in a wide variety of fannish activities, just like everyone else here.

What fannish things do you like to do?

I'm a cosplayer. I entered competitions in my first few years of cosplay, and won an award or two, but have since found that I prefer doing it a little more casually. I also run panels at conventions, and often end up coordinating panel and cosplay schedules alike for the group that I'll be attending with. Really, there's nothing better than spending a weekend with your friends, talking about your favourite fandoms while you're all dressed as characters from them. It's a lot of fun, and well worth the effort.

I also write fanfic and RP, and love sharing headcanons with my friends. Somehow this led to becoming a regular beta for a few of them, which I love. Being able to look at their works before anyone else is an absolute treat, and if I can help make their works stronger before they're published, all the better.

Most of my writing these days is for gift exchanges. I have a habit of running three or four small gift exchanges simultaneously, and participating in several more. I'm also a serial pinch hitter, and will do my best to make sure everyone has something to look forward to when gifts are revealed.

My other love is for the academic side of fandom. I'm building up a small library of books related to the subject, and would love to get a Masters or PhD in fan studies one day. In the meantime, I'm enjoying my time as an independent scholar.


Now that our volunteer’s said five things about what they do, it’s your turn to ask one more thing! Feel free to ask about their work in comments. Or if you'd like, you can check out earlier Five Things posts.

The Organization for Transformative Works is the non-profit parent organization of multiple projects including Archive of Our Own, Fanlore, Open Doors, Transformative Works and Cultures, and OTW Legal Advocacy. We are a fan run, entirely donor-supported organization staffed by volunteers. Find out more about us on our website.

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Published:
2018-04-28 11:17:20 -0400
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Five Things an OTW Volunteer Said

Every month or so the OTW will be doing a Q&A with one of its volunteers about their experiences in the organization. The posts express each volunteer's personal views and do not necessarily reflect the views of the OTW or constitute OTW policy. Today's post is with Rachel Bussert, who volunteers as a staffer in our Volunteers & Recruitment Committee.

How does what you do as a volunteer fit into what the OTW does?

The mission of any organization is driven by the people who dedicate their time and resources to it. Volunteers & Recruiting (VolCom) is very central to that for OTW. Throughout the year, we handle recruitment for all the positions needed, which readers may see regularly in our announcement posts. Below is a chart of OTW’s volunteer numbers over time. As you can see, the number of folks involved in the organization have increased over time to accommodate the work of each committee, and Volunteers & Recruiting is the first step in making sure those staffing needs are being met.

Our work doesn’t stop with recruitment. Volunteers & Recruiting keeps track of the service of each volunteer in the organization, such as the number of years they've been with us and which roles they've held. We coordinate all of the account permissions and tool access that people need to do their work and interact with other volunteers. We also process the turnover as people depart the OTW or as they move into different positions. We report all these changes each month in the OTW newsletter.

What is a typical week like for you as a volunteer?

There tends to be an ebb and flow of work throughout the year, so there’s not necessarily a single answer to that. A given week might include any or all of the following:

  • Discussing committee needs for personnel with their chairs and reviewing role requirements
  • Processing applications for various recruitment campaigns
  • Induction or retirement of volunteers
  • Updating information on volunteers going on or coming off of hiatus
  • Editing tools and resources when a volunteer’s name or email changes
  • Updating organization wide tools and training
  • Work on various internal projects

Did anything take you by surprise when you began volunteering for the OTW or your committee?

Two things, though I think both of them speak more to OTW as an organization rather than just VolCom. The first thing was how well organized everything is overall. Most of the non-profits I’ve had experience partnering with tend to be a little bit haphazard for a variety of reasons, so I was pleasantly surprised by how clear onboarding and training was, and how much effort various committees put into working together for a common goal.

The other thing was just the sheer enthusiasm there is all the way around. Every time we recruit for a role, I’m floored by how many people apply because they want to get involved. That’s not to mention within the organization. There are a lot of really amazing people who put their heart and soul into this.

What's the most rewarding thing to you about volunteering for the OTW?

Fandom has given me so much. I was kind of a lonely kid, and getting into writing fanfiction was the first time I really found people who felt like my people. A couple of my closest friends are folks I met because they commented on my writing, or because we happened to be in the same fandom chat, and so fandom in general is really special to me. I also gravitate pretty strongly towards non-profits in general, so OTW is just this really natural fit.

I think what is most rewarding for me is that with VolCom, I’ve had the opportunity to take some of the skills I’ve developed in my day job, and turn them towards supporting a cause I have so much love for.

What fannish things do you like to do?

All of them? In all seriousness though, I have a lot of fannish interests. In terms of content creation, I write a lot. I’ve been teaching myself art via photomanipulation as well and having a great time with it. I’m mostly in the Captain America fandom these days, but I dip back into Doctor Who and Fullmetal Alchemist now and again. I also cosplay competitively sometimes and get really absurdly excited about documentation and screen accuracy.

I’m pretty serious about giving back to the community that’s given so much to me, so I also tend to get really involved behind the scenes. In addition to OTW, I am on the team that runs two of the writing/art events in my current fandom, I run one of my city’s cosplay meetup groups, and I’m the co-chair for the cosplay masquerade at a local convention.


Now that our volunteer’s said five things about what they do, it’s your turn to ask one more thing! Feel free to ask about their work in comments. Or if you'd like, you can check out earlier Five Things posts.

The Organization for Transformative Works is the non-profit parent organization of multiple projects including Archive of Our Own, Fanlore, Open Doors, Transformative Works and Cultures, and OTW Legal Advocacy. We are a fan run, entirely donor-supported organization staffed by volunteers. Find out more about us on our website.

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